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Week One

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Friday 4 October

Hard Goodbyes: My Father

During the moon-shot summer of 1969, a ten-year-old Athens boy refuses to accept the death of his beloved father, concocting ever more far-fetched fictions to account for his absence. The repeated views of the starry heavens and the linking of juvenile grief with astronautical milestones are an obvious homage to Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog, but this slow, somber drama could have used some of its predecessor's liveliness and variation of tone. First-time director Penny Panayotopoulou's approach to the delicate subject matter is commendably tactful and tasteful--it's also underdramatized, monotonous, and short on humor. A closing dedication invokes the director's loss of her parents; the film might have been sharpened if she'd made it more explicitly autobiographical and connected the protagonist's frantic fiction making more clearly to the growth of an artist. In Greek with subtitles. 108 min. (MR) (Landmark, 6:45)

Chen Mo and Meiting

Chen Mo, a young man fresh from the countryside who's scrambling to make a living selling flowers on the streets of Beijing, meets Meiting, a masseuse-hairdresser who, having repulsed the aggressive advances of her boss, has no place to live. She moves into his tiny apartment, and they forge a unique relationship, which grows increasingly tender and intimate. First-time director Liu Hao designed this ultra-low-budget independent feature (shot in 16-millimeter and blown up to 35-millimeter) as a chamber piece, focusing almost exclusively on his two leads and exploring the ways his handheld camera can animate the small space they call home. Neither character has a family--both are victims of the Cultural Revolution's policy of relocating urbanites to the countryside--so they decide to become something of a family themselves: on some days he plays daddy to her, on the others she plays mommy to him. Avoiding cuteness, Liu opts for an offbeat, penetrating analysis of creative relationship crafting, and his engrossing film stumbles only near the end, when it turns toward melodrama. In Mandarin with subtitles. 78 min. (SK) (Landmark, 7:00)

The Uncertainty Principle

I One of the most remarkable things about Manoel de Oliveira, now in his 90s, is the supple way in which he's been shifting gears between features. This film follows I'm Going Home, which focused on France and the theater; here he takes up Portugal and the novel, adapting Agustina Bessa-Luis's Joai de familia. This is the fourth Oliveira film based on Bessa-Luis's work--the others are Francisca (1981),Valley of Abraham (1993), and the third episode of Inquietude (1998))--and she also furnished the original idea for The Convent (1995) and the dialogue for Party (1996). Valley of Abraham was something of an update of Madame Bovary, and in some ways this feature suggests a gothic version of Henry James. Beautifully shot by Renato Berta, effectively accompanied by bursts of Paganini, it deals with a modern-day, apparently innocent young heroine (the film's title refers mainly to the ambiguity of her innocence), the daughter of a compulsive gambler who compares herself to Joan of Arc and winds up in an arranged marriage with a corrupt, well-to-do man who brings her to live in the same house as his brothel-owning mistress. This is more difficult than other recent Oliveira films because of the slow, highly stylized mise en scene, with characters often looking past one another, which evokes Dreyer's Gertrud, and because of its old-fashioned mannerist treatment of decadence, which suggests late Bresson--and in one visual trope, Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. It's haunting, weird, and exquisite. In Portuguese with subtitles. 132 minutes. (JR) (Music Box, 7:00)

Swing

Tony Gatlif revisits the culture he explored in 1993's Latcho drom in this story of a ten-year-old French boy who becomes fascinated with Gypsy jazz, starts to learn guitar, and strikes up a friendship with a Gypsy child. In French with subtitles. 90 min. (Landmark, 7:15)

Bellaria--As Long as We Live!

For decades a small cinema revival house in Vienna, the Bellaria, has been showing vintage Austrian and German films to an audience of men and women mostly in their 70s and 80s. Douglas Wolfsperger's affectionate look at this subculture depicts a group of people who retain their vitality by going to their beloved movie house almost every day to watch the films that defined their youth. Wolfsperger pays homage to some of the stars of the past and the movies they appeared in, but this is more about the loyal patrons, some of whom can claim to be minor celebrities--one woman had a song-and-dance act that took her all over Europe (she shows a striking bare-breasted old photograph of herself) and one man performed a cabaret act in drag. In one scene a former matinee idol who's nearing 90 watches himself in a movie from the 40s with a profound blend of wistfulness and wonder that's incredibly poignant. But it's creepy that Wolfsperger sidesteps the issue of the pro-Nazi films that were made in the 30s and 40s. In German with subtitles. 100 min. (JK) (Music Box, 7:15)

Freewheeling in Roma

A Rome seldom seen in travelogues animates this unusually loose and impressionistic film in 'Scope from writer-director Carola Spadoni. The camera follows, over the course of one day, a street bard named Victor (poet Victor Cavallo), who's running for mayor and engaging everyone he sees in conversation about politics and life. The locales he roams through are hangouts for those on Rome's fringe--a tent city next to the Tiber, a bustling flea market, side-street corners, a desolate bar. Much of the dialogue seems improvised by the mostly nonprofessional cast, and the ruminations and complaints have the ring of authenticity. The music on the busy, creepy sound track is appropriate to each setting in this casual stroll through a city Spandoni clearly loves. In Italian with subtitles. 85 min. (TS) (Landmark, 7:30)

Evelyn

Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy) brings his talent for sturdy, unadventurous drama to this British feature about Desmond Doyle, an Irish tradesman who lost custody of his children in the mid-50s and fought a prolonged legal battle to reclaim them from the state's industrial schools. The film has been a pet project for Pierce Brosnan, winner of the festival's career achievement award this year, and he gives a credible performance as Doyle, a handsome ne'er-do-well who can't seem to hold on to a job or turn down a pint. Equally strong are Stephen Rea as Doyle's crisp solicitor, Aidan Quinn as his Yankee barrister, Julianna Margulies as the comely barmaid who tries to straighten Doyle out, and Alan Bates as the alcoholic attorney whose knowledge of Irish family law helps surmount what Rea describes as the "cozy conspiracy between the Catholic Church and the Irish state." Unfortunately their energies can't rescue Paul Pender's soggy and predictable screenplay, which ends in tears and shafts of sunlight. 94 min. (JJ) (Chicago Theatre, 8:00)

Chihwaseon

The 98th feature of Korean master Im Kwon-taek, who's only 66, is an old-fashioned, beautifully crafted biopic, the kind that translates easily into picturesque art-house fare in the Western marketplace--it shared the best director prize this year at Cannes, a first for any Korean film. The life of Korean painter Jang Seung-up, who was born in 1843 and disappeared 54 years later, provides more than enough drama and historical incident for a richly reimagined evocation of Korea's past. Against the backdrop of Chinese and Japanese colonization, political reform, and popular revolt, Jang's life as a rebel artist plays out in a briskly captured series of episodes, and the performance of Korea's finest screen actor, Choi Min-sik, in the role is vibrant and full-bodied. Jang's hard-drinking, prodigiously lustful, defiantly ascetic life is pretty standard, as is the contradiction between the artist's radical creativity and his willingness to produce gorgeous brush paintings, screens, and fans for well-connected connoisseurs. The telegraphically economical narrative line, in which elegant ellipses separate precisely delineated moments, is a perfect analogue to his vibrantly impressionistic brushwork. Ultimately, this triumph of cinematography and art direction remains vulnerable to its internal critique of art as commodity. In Korean with subtitles. 117 min. (SK) (Landmark, 9:00)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Dai Sijie's autobiographical third feature, adapted from his autobiographical first novel, is a visually assured reconstruction of memory and time. The story details the experiences of two friends, Luo and Ma, as they try to survive a Maoist reeducation camp in a remote mountain village during the Cultural Revolution. Outmaneuvering the party official who watches over them, they pursue the beautiful granddaughter of the village tailor, meeting with her secretly to read books by outlawed writers. In their most radical act, they persuade the villagers that the Mozart pieces Luo plays on his violin are songs about the revolution. The ethereal private moments and inspired passages are beautifully shot by Jean-Marie Dreujou, but Dai never quite organizes the material dramatically, and the tone is too often jagged and disruptive. In Cantonese with subtitles. 116 min. (PZM) (Landmark, 9:15)

Dog Days

After years toiling as a documentarian, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl has been receiving considerable acclaim on the festival circuit for this occasionally provocative but frequently wearying feature. Consistently sardonic in tone as it skewers both solid Viennese burghers and lumpen thugs, Dog Days is a free-form chronicle of an insufferably humid summer weekend that swerves vertiginously between a rabidly jealous young man's pursuit of his free-spirited girlfriend, the antics of a mentally unhinged female hitchhiker who gleefully insults drivers, an elderly man's poignant but slightly creepy efforts to seduce his loyal housekeeper, and the horrific gang rape of a teacher by her sadistic lover and his thuggish friends. At first, Seidl's visual flair manages to enliven the mordant proceedings--meticulously composed shots of Austrian sunbathers are eerily reminiscent of sculptor Duane Hanson's hyperrealistic re-creations of middle-class Americans. Yet as Dog Days approaches its violent but banal conclusion, Seidl's talent for satirical invective is neutralized by his weakness for over-the-top narrative pyrotechnics--this is more warmed-over Quentin Tarantino than Georg Grosz. In German with subtitles. 120 min. (RMP) (Landmark, 9:30)

Afghan Alphabet

Made last December, Mohsen Makhmal-baf's 44-minute documentary focuses on Afghan refugee children during their first day of school in a village near the Iranian border. It's indicative of the highly interactive and sometimes competitive nature of recent Iranian cinema that the title of this film can probably be traced to Kiarostami's recent ABC Africa, which can be traced to Amir Naderi's 1997 A, B, C...Manhattan. And at times Makhmalbaf, who doubles as offscreen narrator and interviewer, may be trying (without a great deal of success) to emulate Forugh Farrokhzad's 1962 The House Is Black, even down to the cadences of the poetry he recites near the end. There's something moving about kids seeing education as a precious luxury and crowding classrooms to capacity even when they can't officially enroll, and given that America is attacking their country--and might attack Iraq--one can understand a boy saying he doesn't like either America or the Taliban. Yet I'm not entirely comfortable with Makhmalbaf's aggressive efforts to persuade one little girl to remove her veil: the film is structured around the children's first lesson--saying, writing, and reading the Afghan word for water--and getting the girl to show her face long enough to wash it. In Farsi with subtitles. (JR) (Music Box, 9:30)

The Happiness of the Katakuris

I Japanese director Takashi Miike is a cult filmmaker for our time. His work since 1995 has been fast, cheap, and frequently out of control. Celebrated by his fans for excessively violent horror-thrillers such as Audition (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001), Miike takes a welcome break from that fare with The Happiness of the Katakuris, a camp musical-comedy hoot. It comes on like an outrageous episode of The Simpsons or South Park, milking humor from a happy-smiley family's attempts to turn a country estate into a guest house. As their new life spins out of control, murders and apparitions do nothing to halt the flow of songs, dances, and sickening pastel imagery. Like an Austin Powers movie made for a fraction of the cost, it throws in a bit of everything--scatological jokes, movie pastiches, animation, satire of national manners--as it whips up an infectious energy. Starring Kenji Sawada and Keiko Matsuzaka. In Japanese with subtitles. 113 min. (AM) (Landmark, 9:45)

eXXXorcisms

A more experimental, Mexican version of Pedro Almodovar, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo is best known for affectionately parodic, gender-bending melodramas. This new film is an aesthetic and narrative departure--working for the first time in digital video, he perversely fuses confessional cinema and horror-film conventions. In order to revisit the site of a youthful passion, the solidly bourgeois Marco Antonio (Alberto Estrella), who's married and complacent, gets a job as a security guard in a shopping arcade. As any pretense of naturalism evaporates, he recalls through a self-induced hallucination his intense adolescent affair with a male school friend. Essentially a protracted monologue, Estrella's bravura performance and Hermosillo's brilliant use of the digital medium help turn this theatrical exercise into a full-fledged cinematic psychodrama. Still, I missed the buoyant ironies of Hermosillo's previous work--the emphasis here on personal exploration and catharsis comes perilously close to an elaborate, if unusually lurid, therapy session. In Spanish with subtitles. 78 min. (RMP) (Music Box, 10:00)

Saturday 5 October

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 1:15)

Hard Goodbyes: My Father

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 1:30)

The Uncertainty Principle

I See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 1:45)

Sister Helen

I Rob Fruchtman and Rebecca Cammisa's deeply affecting documentary portrait of Sister Helen Travis follows the 69-year-old Benedictine nun's work as founder and director of a recovery home for drug and alcohol addicts in the South Bronx. Loud, riotously foulmouthed, and utterly committed to her calling, Sister Helen both commands and earns the respect of the 23 men in her halfway house through an uneasy mix of humor, contentiousness, and tenacity. And while there's no denying her charm, the filmmakers are smart enough not to downplay her significant flaws. A former boozer who lost a husband and two sons to alcohol, drugs, and murder, she can display a zeal and emotional volatility that seem painfully counterproductive. This is a fittingly complex look at a remarkable woman and her equally memorable charges. 90 min. (RP) (Landmark, 2:00)

My Mother's Smile

In his best film in years, Marco Bellocchio crafts a stringently moral tale that carries a hint of horror, as if his hero had caught a whiff of hellfire. Ernesto (Sergio Castellitto, in a broodingly charismatic performance) is awakened one morning by a Vatican emissary who reveals that Ernesto's deceased mother, a woman of pedestrian accomplishments and garden-variety faith, has been proposed for sainthood. This determinedly atheist son subsequently discovers the dark motives, high ambitions, and venal dreams that have led his family to mount a secret campaign toward this end. Now they need his help. Bellocchio constructs Ernesto's moral dilemma with evident relish, placing his character between a morass of hypocrisy and a yawning pit of childhood guilt. The film's chiaroscuro lighting and sumptuous imagery suggest the netherworlds Ernesto's intellect so rigorously rejects. In Italian with subtitles. 103 min. (BS) (Music Box, 2:30)

Afghan Alphabet

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 3:15)

The Trilogy: On the Run

The first episode (117 min.) of a trilogy by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux that "recounts the same events from disparate vantage points." In this installment an escaped convict sets out on a manhunt. In French with subtitles. (Landmark, 3:45)

Carnage

The lives of disparate characters become intertwined through a series of coincidences linked to a bull that gores a young bullfighter in southern Spain. After the bull is dismembered, its parts are scattered throughout Europe and wind up in the possession of, among others, a philandering research scientist, a lonely actress, a small girl who saw the bullfight on television, her teacher, and a creepy taxidermist. French director Delphine Gleize displays an assured and lyrical visual style in her first feature, creating moments of genuine grace and beauty throughout. But integrating the various story lines and thematic threads seems at times more than she can manage, leading to some confusing sequences and odd shifts in dramatic tone. This is a flawed but rich debut. In French with subtitles. 123 min. (RP) (Landmark, 4:00)

To Tama: Evagoras' Vow

Blessed with a son after praying to Saint Andreas, a farmer in Cyprus (Georges Corraface) sets off for the saint's monastery, hoping he and his donkey can cross the island in time for the saint's feast day. His father, a village priest, has warned him to resist temptation during his journey, a task complicated by the lonely young woman--Valeria Golino, no less--who keeps crawling into bed with him. This Greek feature, set in 1940, ponders the concept of sin and wrings a fair amount of comedy from its plasticity: though the farmer finds himself lying, stealing, eating gluttonously, and betraying his wife, in each instance people try to convince him that he's doing God's will. The slow-moving story settles into pious magical realism in its last half hour, after the farmer encounters a fellow pilgrim who's a career soldier; the man recalls being discharged at the end of World War II, a staggering lapse in continuity--or a miracle, depending on your point of view. Written and directed by Andreas Pantzis. 154 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 4:15)

Freewheeling in Roma

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 4:30)

Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

Lee Hirsch's sprawling history of music's role in the antiapartheid struggle shows how music evolved along with the conflict, shifting from lyrical pining for justice to angry martial imagery and rhythms. The subject matter practically guarantees good things: Hirsch uses a lot of archival stuff as well as new footage and recordings, and the film is carried along by the sheer intensity of feeling in the songs. At times, he seems afraid to trust the material's inherent drama and becomes unnecessarily manipulative, staging performances in striking landscapes and playing the footage in slow motion--as if this were an MTV public-service ad for racial justice. But overall it's an informative and entertaining look at the music that drove a revolution. In English and subtitled Zulu and Tutu. 108 min. (HS) (Music Box, 4:45)

My Life as McDull

This animated feature based on characters from a popular Hong Kong comic book nimbly sidesteps cuteness and pratfalls and immerses the viewer in a sharp-eyed re-creation of the city's tattered environment and dream spaces. The main character is a none-too-bright piglet whose world is populated by animal children and human adults, and the filmmakers--director Toe Yuen, writer Brian Tse, designer Alice Mak--take advantage of a broad palette of animation effects, from simple line drawings to baroque fantasies of high-rise warrens, to analyze Hong Kongers' sense of who they are and where they're going after a few years under Chinese sovereignty. Droll to hilarious set pieces recount McDull's birth, education, and training as a would-be Olympian, with excursions to his mother's TV cooking show and the Maldives; these and other bits of whimsy are accompanied by ruminative Schumann and Schubert piano works that have been given improbably catchy nonsense lyrics. The beauty of the film lies in its jazzy creativity--it's a free-flying dance of images that animates more than its characters. Ultimately it stakes out more serious ground as the piglet and the city, constantly scrutinized by the powers that be, invent their own identities in endless fragile dreams. In Cantonese with subtitles. 75 min. (SK) (Music Box, 5:00)

The Devils

I Alternately horrifying and heartbreaking, this French feature by Christophe Ruggia focuses on a homeless 12-year-old (Vincent Rottiers) whose ruthless defense of his mentally ill older sister (Adele Haenel) has less to do with her well-being than with his own emotional starvation. Abandoned on the streets of Marseilles, the pair have fled one foster home after another in search of their natural parents, but when the mother finally materializes she insists that the girl isn't her child, which pushes her volatile son over the edge. Rottiers gives an electric performance as the street-smart boy, whose tenderness toward his sister counters his rage at the rest of the world, and Haenel is equally compelling as the girl, whose furious autism borders on demonic possession. Ruggia collaborated with Olivier Lorelle on the screenplay, and though the action grows increasingly squalid as the story progresses, the film ends with a striking and beautiful image of love transcendent. In French with subtitles. 105 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 6:30)

Nights of Constantinople

The young scion of an old Havana family secretly writes an erotic novel that wins an international prize. When his puritanical grandmother hears the news she suffers a stroke, and the other members of the family are suddenly freed from the past's hold. At one point the matriarch compares the menagerie of relatives cooped up in the faded family villa to the House of Usher, but not much in this 2001 comedy-drama is scary. It tries for blithe, but its characters are one-dimensional and hardly decadent--there's an earnestly romantic grandson, a fat-bitch cousin, a repressed-spinster aunt, an overbearing grandma. And the situations that lead to the looting of valuable paintings are contrived--director Orlando Rojas is overly fond of soft-porn scenes and drag acts--while the social commentary on Cuba is minimal, though we do learn about the island's infatuation with Western pop culture. With Francisco Rabal, Liberto Rabal, and Veronica Lynn. In Spanish with subtitles. 115 min. (TS) (Landmark, 6:45)

Brown Sugar

Fifteen years after witnessing the birth of hip-hop, a New York music critic (Sanaa Lathan) and music-biz executive (Taye Diggs) struggle to keep it real as their friendship blossoms into romance. Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood) directed; with Mos Def and Queen Latifah. 108 min. (Music Box, 6:45)

Real Women Have Curves

Ana (America Ferrera) is a Mexican-American teenager struggling through the transition to adulthood in seemingly irresolvable conflict with her mother (Lupe Ontiveros). Ana doesn't want to end up working in the family dress factory; her mother doesn't want to let her go. Mom makes constant digs about Ana's weight, and Ana responds with the usual teenage mix of sarcasm, rage, and childishness. Along the way, Ana has a romance with a rich boy from her high school and gets encouragement from a teacher to pursue larger dreams. Some pieces of the plot feel dishonest, others contrived, but there are also moments of nicely observed detail and plenty of good messages. Directed by Patricia Cardoso. In Spanish with subtitles. 93 min. (HS) (Landmark, 7:00)

Bellaria--As Long As We Live!

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 7:15)

Blind Spot

In this unremittingly bleak film a young woman tries to save her younger brother from drug addiction by locking him in an apartment and overseeing his withdrawal. Virtually the entire film takes place in a strange netherworld where it's always past midnight and no one but the story's characters is on the street. The feature debut of Slovenian director Hanna A.W. Slak, it has the tentative feel of one; it's drenched in atmosphere and contains some interesting camerawork, but the characters are so elliptically rendered they barely register. It's to her credit that Slak has done away with the usually tedious back story, and her decision to minimize plot and character development lets her focus on elements such as sound, lighting, and texture. But after a while the dramatic disengagement starts to work against the material, and what remains is little more than a visually interesting formal exercise. In Slovenian with subtitles. 87 min. (JK) (Landmark, 7:30)

The Trilogy: An Amazing Couple

The second episode (100 min.) of a trilogy by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux that "recounts the same events from disparate vantage points." This installment covers "the story of a mysterious illness and the growing suspicions between a married couple." In French with subtitles. (Landmark, 9:15)

Just a Kiss

A television commercial director's one-night stand with his best friend's girlfriend sets off a series of boomeranging infidelities in this muddled attempt at edgy comedy. The string of characters includes Kyra Sedgwick as the director's girlfriend, Taye Diggs as the pompous blowhard she sleeps with, and Marley Shelton as the suicidal dancer the director (Ron Eldard) boffs. The story (written by costar Patrick Breen) suffers from erratic shifts in tone, veering from conventional romantic comedy to absurdist farce to black comedy to whimsical fantasy, and director Fisher Stevens tosses in some pointless rotoscoped animation. Essentially one more tale of young, self-absorbed New Yorkers complaining about their relationships, this film needs more than its haphazard serving of magical realism to make us care about these people. It's telling that a deranged stalker (Marisa Tomei in a nice turn) is the only engaging and fully realized character in the movie. 89 min. (RP) (Landmark, 9:30)

Welcome to Collinwood

The elaborate heist at the center of this indie comedy is nothing compared to the screenplay's ransacking of Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), the classic Italian farce by Mario Monicelli. Like that film, Welcome to Collinwood follows a motley assortment of petty criminals (Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington, and Michael Jeter) as they plot the perfect crime and then completely foul it up, and the climactic sight gag is lifted from Monicelli's movie like a diamond from a jeweler's window. Writer-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, making their feature debut, add some pretty funny characterization leading up to the big job, and there are some strong comic turns by Patricia Clarkson and George Clooney (who produced, with Steven Soderbergh). According to Joe Russo, he and his brother based their script on the Monicelli film because "it was such a tragedy that American audiences had never really experienced this classic comedy" and "by remaking it, we could potentially bring the story to people who would never see it otherwise." They'll have to come up with a better alibi than that. With Luis Guzman, Andrew Davoli, and Jennifer Esposito. 86 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 9:30)

Bowling for Columbine

I Michael Moore's best film to date is this comic and grimly entertaining reflection on America's gun craziness and why we kill one another. It's closer to speculative editorial than investigative journalism, and the shrewdness of most of its arguments has enraged some reviewers as much as its occasionally questionable methodology. They've dismissed the 135-minute polemic as an ego trip and called it anti-American, though Moore proves how American he is every time he conflates the U.S. and the planet, as when he sarcastically includes "It's a Wonderful World" on the sound track. He also takes unfair, unfunny swipes at a few hapless working people, most notably an LA cop trying to do his job. But despite these faults, he's taking on a vital subject, and this movie inspired standing ovations at the festivals in Cannes and Toronto because it says, with wit and passion, truthful things no other film is saying. That Moore is reaching segments of the public most leftists only dream about should inspire gratitude, not envy. And if at times he's in over his head, too many of his self-righteous critics aren't even getting their feet wet. 125 min. (JR) (Music Box, 9:30)

The Happiness of the Katakuris

I See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:45)

Nogo

The filmmaking team of Sabine Hiebler and Gerhard Ertl emerged from the impressive Austrian avant-garde of the 1990s, their compact works combining intensively altered "found footage" with rigorously rhythmic collages of music and sound. As with many experimentalists, their first narrative feature is a little disappointing. They adopt a Tarantino-style mosaic, complete with bank heist, of three sets of characters and their stories, all eventually converging at a gas station. Like a Tom Tykwer film, Nogo emphasizes the mind games couples play and scrambles chronology for the sake of jazzy overlaps; it also regularly freezes for some Gen X posturing by the characters and ambivalent gestures by the filmmakers--who'd rather desecrate than honor their narrative obligations. Nevertheless, this a reasonably colorful and inventive effort. With Meret Becker, Oliver Korritke, and Jasmin Tabatabai. In German with subtitles. 90 min. (AM) (Music Box, 9:45)

Sunday 6 October

Swing

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 12:15)

Seaside

Winner of the Camera d'Or at Cannes, Julie Lopes-Curval's Seaside might be a little too convincing for its own good. Desultorily following several characters through a year in their none too eventful lives in a small French resort town, the film successfully captures the dull rhythm of seasonal community shifts, the strained conversation and uncertain silences that characterize exchanges between those who left home and those who stayed behind, and the slow, incremental breakups and re-formations of couples and families. Like a lot of recent French films, it shines brightest when it ventures into the workplace. Pierre, a lifeguard by summer, clerks in a grocery store during the rest of the year. His mother (Bulle Ogier) sneaks off to feed her pension and mortgage payments to the slots at the local casino, the same establishment that employs her daughter. Pierre's girlfriend sorts rocks on the assembly line of a gravel factory, the town's sole nontourist industry. And the former factory owner's son, whose upbringing in the family-run business has left him ill prepared for the cutthroat practices of modern corporate management, aimlessly tools around town in a red sports car. As they say, plus ca change...In French with subtitles. 88 min. (RS) (Landmark, 1:30)

Just a Kiss

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 1:45)

Blind Spot

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 1:45)

Offbeat Shorts

A hilarious satire of video violence, Paul Kosoulides's UK film Inferno (28 min.) concerns two hapless Anglo-Indian car thieves serving time in a modern prison where their images, voices, and handprints are stored as digital files. After hackers break into the computer system and loot the files, the crooks find themselves turned into disposable combatants in a grisly shoot-'em-up computer game starring a heavily armed Lara Croft-style bombshell, but the AI component lets them learn from their errors and gain control of the scenario. In Jeremy Passmore's moody Crossing (12 min.) a homeless teenager purposely steps in front of moving cars so he can hit the drivers up for cash--and catch a glimpse of the bright light awaiting him. And Martin Jones's UK film At Dawning (12 min.) features a strong performance by Jenny Agutter as a woman who wakes up in a strange man's bed and tries to step out quietly, an endeavor complicated by the discovery of the man's body in a tree outside the bedroom window. Subtitled shorts from Spain, France, and Canada complete this 102-minute program. (JJ) (Landmark, 2:00)

Chen Mo and Meiting

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 2:00)

Real Women Have Curves

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 2:15)

To Tama: Evagoras' Vow

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 3:30)

Women's Prison

Artistically crude but sociologically fascinating, Manijeh Hekmat's Women's Prison, like other recent Iranian films such as Dariush Merjrui's Bemani and Abbas Kiarostami's Ten, paints a harrowing portrait of women in an intractably misogynist Islamic state. Despite some occasional melodramatic excess, the film, a product of considerable firsthand research, succinctly reveals how dejected outcasts in a filthy jail--drug addicts, prostitutes, and lesbians--exemplify women in contemporary Iranian society, whose rage is barely suppressed. Tensions between fundamentalists and liberals are crystallized through the relationship of the film's putative heroine, Mitra, jailed for the murder of her brutal stepfather, and the authoritarian warden, Tahereh. Three discrete sequences--which take place in 1984, 1992, and 2001--underline Mitra's hesitant attempts to curry favor with the forbidding Tahereh, while a motley assortment of inmates both bicker with one another and discover the pleasures of female solidarity. The production and distribution of this film are acts of courage; the director almost ended up in prison herself before the Iranian government approved a censored version for public screenings. In Farsi with subtitles. 106 min. (RMP) (Landmark, 3:45)

The Trilogy: After Life

The final episode (124 min.) of a trilogy by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux that "recounts the same events from disparate vantage points." In this installment a police officer with a morphine-addicted lover descends into the underworld. In French with subtitles. (Landmark, 4:00)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 4:00)

A Little Monk

The T'aebaek Mountains of South Korea provide a stately backdrop for this contemporary tale of a nine-year-old boy (Tae-jin Kim) who's been taken in by a Buddhist temple but longs to find his mother. Schooled by a severe and shortsighted temple master (Young-soo Oh), the little monk is torn between the adventures of the village children he encounters and the enlightenment promised him if he adheres to Buddhist precepts, while his fellow novice at the temple, a 20-year-old man (Min-kyo Kim), fights a similar battle against the temptations of the flesh. Cinematographer Chan-kyu Choi films in natural light to enhance the ornamental beauty of the temple (actually two different locations, the Sunamsa Temple in the T'aebaeks and the Bongjeongsa Temple near Andong), and writer-director Kyung-jung Joo employs a comparable narrative strategy in his gentle treatment of the boy's emotional turmoil. Joo's story reveals the folly--and ultimately the cruelty--of forcing wisdom on souls too young to make use of it. In Korean with subtitles. 102 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 4:30)

Safe Conduct

The nature of the French intelligentsia's collaboration with--and opposition to--the Nazis still generates heated controversy, and this film by Bertrand Tavernier, which explores the choices people made during the dark days of the occupation, has been the subject of intense controversy in France since its release earlier this year. Illuminating the moral dilemmas faced by antifascist directors and screenwriters of the era, Tavernier focuses on the intertwined destinies of two courageous cineastes. A pragmatic rebel, Jean Devaivre decides to work as an assistant director for Continental, a German-controlled production company, as a cover for his resistance activities, while Jean Aurenche, a screenwriter who lives by his wits, spurns Continental's generous offers of employment. Despite their antithetical personalities--Devaivre is earnest and happily married, Aurenche mercurial and an incorrigible ladies' man--both display idiosyncratic forms of heroism. A fast-moving and frequently exciting film a clef, Safe Conduct reflects the recent findings of scholars who assert that Continental, despite unsavory affinities, managed to produce films such as Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le corbeau that subtly subverted fascist orthodoxy. This picture also benefits enormously from the expert performances of Jacques Gamblin as Devaivre and Denis Podalydes as Aurenche. In French with subtitles. 170 min. (RMP) (Music Box, 4:30)

One Fine Spring Day

Korean director Hur Jin-ho's lachrymal romantic dramas are all about restraint. They sketch with the sparest of means the space around the precisely poised stillness that's at the intersection of romance and mourning. This film, like his previous melodrama, Christmas in August (1998), traces a love affair that begins and ends with seeming inevitability. It keenly observes, using a distanced camera, the delicate adjustments two young adults--a sound technician in a small South Korean town and a radio producer who hires him to record sounds of nature--must make to accommodate their changing feelings about each other. Unlike most Korean films, this one puts the woman in charge. She nudges their undefined courtship toward something more passionate, and when she decides she's had enough he's completely nonplussed. A subdued palette and precisely framed, virtually still compositions anchor the actors in a natural world that echoes the story as it moves from spring to winter and back to spring. The soundscape is exquisitely detailed--we hear the sigh of wind through a bamboo grove, the rustling of tall grasses, the tinkling of a temple's bells. Hur's achievement might have been close to sublime if his controlling style hadn't smothered any spontaneity in the actors' performances and the denouement hadn't pushed the tone off-key. In Korean with subtitles. 115 min. (SK) (Landmark, 6:00)

Bellaria--As Long As We Live!

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 6:30)

Russian Ark

I This Alexander Sokurov feature is one of the most staggering technical achievements in the history of cinema--a single shot lasting 95 minutes while moving through 33 rooms in the world's largest museum, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg (which also encompasses the Winter Palace). Part pageant and museum tour, part theme-park ride and historical meditation, it traverses two centuries of czarist Russia as smoothly as it crosses the Hermitage, with the offscreen Sokurov engaged in an ongoing dialogue with an on-screen 19th-century French diplomat (apparently suggested by Adolphe, marquis de Custine). Sokurov used close to 2,000 actors and extras and three live orchestras in making what may be the world's only unedited single-take feature as well as the longest steadicam sequence ever shot. This is also the first uncompressed high-definition film recorded on a portable hard-disk system rather than film or tape before being transferred to 35-millimeter. The problem with these feats is that they threaten to overwhelm the film's content, both as complex historical commentary and as aesthetic and theoretical gesture. As critic J. Hoberman has suggested, this is an anti-October, challenging Eisenstein's reliance on montage while using the Winter Palace as a gigantic set. All of which is to say that we're only just starting to grasp the dimensions of this formidable achievement. In Russian with subtitles. 96 min. (JR) (Landmark, 6:45)

The Devils

I See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 6:45)

Freewheeling in Roma

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 7:00)

City of God

Art houses and film festivals worldwide once screened movies that were alternatives to Hollywood fare, appealing to audiences' curiosity about other places and willingness to recognize a common human experience across borders. Now movies everywhere seem to be following the American mainstream, often using the exoticism of the location in place of star power. This Brazilian film, directed by Fernando Meirelles, is well scripted, fast, exploitative, and cynical--like most gangster movies. Set in a ghetto on the outskirts of Rio, it follows a young mobster as he causes the death of friends and enemies alike to become the Scarface of his world. Predictably, the violence is overwhelming. But the massacres are glamorized, and the characters look like they're posing for tourism posters. With no precise reference to contemporary Brazil, City of God invites us to contemplate--from a safe distance--the terrible life of the slums, where poor people apparently kill each other with natural grace and wit. In Portuguese with subtitles. 130 min. (Q) (Landmark, 8:30)

Dragonflies

A young Norwegian couple living peacefully in the country are forced to confront their past when the man's former accomplice in crime shows up on their doorstep. Marius Holst directed; in Norwegian with subtitles. 110 min. (Landmark, 8:45)

Bloody Sunday

I Paul Greengrass's vivid, devastating film captures the dread, horror, and confusion of January 30, 1972, in Bogside, the Northern Ireland district where British soldiers fired on Irish activists during a civil rights march, killing 13 and wounding more. Adapting Don Mullan's oral history of the tragedy, Greengrass sacrifices character and plot to a chilling impressionistic stylization. Shot by the excellent Ivan Strasburg, the entire film is photographed with handheld cameras, which hover and swoop, producing a breathtaking immediacy. The director dispenses with transitions, punctuating terse, charged scenes of political organizers, soldiers at the army command center, and British officers by fading to black--a form of ellipsis that establishes a convincing political, cultural, and social framework for the events, the officers' class-conscious arrogance, the soldiers' sense of power, and the Irish activists' feelings of loss, anger, and political impotence. The movie's searing conclusion left me numb and overwhelmed. With James Nesbitt. 107 min. On the same program, Brian Kelly's short The Box. (PZM) (Music Box, 8:45)

Lost in La Mancha

After a decade of development, Terry Gilliam's feature The Man Who Killed Don Quixote began shooting in Madrid in September 2000, but the project collapsed under the pressure of language barriers, missing actors, NATO jets flying over the soundstage, and a flash flood that destroyed sets and equipment. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe directed this 89-minute documentary about the scuttled film. Also on the program: Director's Cut, a two-minute Slovenian short by Boris Petkovic. (Landmark, 9:00)

Nogo

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 9:00)

eXXXorcisms

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:15)

Monday 7 October

To Tama: Evagoras' Vow

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 3:00)

Dragonflies

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 4:00)

Hard Goodbyes: My Father

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 6:15)

Carnage

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 6:30)

Blue Car

An alienated high school girl (Agnes Bruckner) finds solace through a devoted English teacher (David Strathairn) who nurtures her poetic gifts. Northwestern University grad Karen Moncrieff's Sundance hit starts out as a pedagogical heart-warmer in the tradition of The Corn Is Green and Educating Rita, then veers toward Maury Povich territory when the heroine's pesky little sister descends into self-mutilating psychosis and the revered teacher develops extracurricular feelings for his dewy protege. Shot, despite its low budget, in a glossy TV-movie style, this film about poetry lacks any sense of poetry or evocative detail--staging a funeral in the rain seems to be the limit of first-time director Moncrieff's expressive reach. And Bruckner, too pretty and placid for the insecure outcast she plays, would be more convincing as a troubled cheerleader than as a fledgling Plath. 87 min. (MR) (Landmark, 6:45)

Amandla! A Revolution

in Four Part Harmony

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 7:00)

Russian Ark

I See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Music Box, 7:00)

Chen Mo and Meiting

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 7:15)

Seaside

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 8:45)

The Devils

I See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 9:00)

Bowling for Columbine

I See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 9:15)

City of God

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Music Box, 9:15)

Blind Spot

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 9:15)

My Life as McDull

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 9:30)

Tuesday 8 October

Women's Prison

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 4:00)

Welcome to Collinwood

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 4:30)

The Uncertainty Principle

I See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 6:00)

Dragonflies

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 6:15)

Nothing More

Carla, a post office employee in Cuba, is waiting for news about the visa that will let her travel to the U.S., though she doesn't really care whether she goes. Meanwhile, she's trying "to help people understand each other better" by illegally rewriting their letters--including those of a TV shrink--with predictably comical results. Shooting in black and white with spots of color--a flower here, a taxi there--first-time director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti wants to challenge the Cuban bureaucracy with his vision of invention and fun, but he's trying too hard: Nothing More, overloaded with quirky cheapo special effects, comes across as a low-rent version of Amelie. Like many Cuban films in recent years, it's torn between its hatred for red tape and its love for an ideal Cuba in which citizens can shape their own destiny. But Cremata Malberti lacks the storytelling acumen of directors such as Juan Carlos Tabio, and his film devolves into a patience-testing farce. With Thais Valdes, who resembles Jean Seberg right down to the haircut. In Spanish with subtitles. 93 min. (MP) (Landmark, 6:30)

A Little Monk

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 6:45)

The Dancer Upstairs

John Malkovich's first feature as a director is an adaptation of the Nicholas Shakespeare novel, about a Latin American military policeman (Javier Bardem) whose pursuit of a Marxist guerrilla (Abel Folk) is complicated by an affair with his daughter's ballet teacher (Laura Morante). In English and subtitled Spanish. 133 min. (Music Box, 6:45)

Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 7:00)

Marooned in Iraq

I Kurdish director Bahman Gho-badi's magnificent second film reprises all the memorable motifs and horrific imagery of his acclaimed A Time for Drunken Horses (the same orphaned children, the same countryside studded with land mines, the same bleak employment prospects that make semisuicidal smuggling the only option) and adds a few more terrors (genocidal bombings, widowed women disfigured and dying from chemical-warfare attacks). Except that here everything that was foregrounded in Ghobadi's first picture becomes the everyday backdrop to a quasi farce tracing a family of musicians' noisy, squabbling, absurdist, and revelatory trek from Iran to Iraq in search of the patriarch's first wife. In the course of their travels these displaced artists are kidnapped and forced to play at a wedding that degenerates into a shooting match, then set upon and robbed by bandits disguised as policemen. They may bellyache, yet nothing seems to faze them: they fall in love with women's voices they hear along the way, adopt two sons, and cross the harsh terrain by bartering whatever they can, though they lack the chutzpah of a doctor who sells AIDS medication as a tonic for mules. Also, unforgettably, they make music: the film's Iranian title translates as "Songs From the Motherland." In Kurdish with subtitles. 110 min. (RS) (Landmark, 8:30)

Roger Dodger

Campbell Scott is clearly having a ball playing Roger--a cynical ad executive whose approach to women is a cross between liar's poker and hostile takeover--and he invites us to relish the sheer audacity of his nasty patter. When Roger's nephew Nick (a terrifically sly Jesse Eisenberg, whose dorky innocence has some tricky undercurrents) asks for advice on how to get laid, Roger takes him out for a night of education. Scott and Eisenberg are so good at playing off each other that you'll happily forgive the film its familiar moralistic payoff: polished player hiding inner bleakness gets his comeuppance when faced with innocence and honesty. Writer-director Dylan Kidd has a great ear for dialogue, and he throws in a few unexpected twists. But the real fun is watching an old pro actor and a newcomer run with the script. 104 min. (HS) (Landmark, 8:45)

My Mother's Smile

I See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 9:00)

Blue Car

See listing under Monday, October 7. (Landmark, 9:15)

Punch-Drunk Love

The fourth feature of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (after Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia) is a stridently wacky romantic comedy that stands or falls on whether you find Adam Sandler funny as a small businessman working out of a warehouse in greater Los Angeles. He didn't make me laugh once, and neither did his costar Emily Watson, though Philip Seymour Hoffman, in what amounts to a cameo, made me laugh once or twice. I tend to like quirkiness, but this arch effort is so eager to be quirky nearly everything winds up willfully mannered, from Jon Brion's flashy percussive score to the hyperbolically absurdist plot. Still, I wouldn't have minded even the Hollywood schlock lurking behind the studied weirdness if I'd believed in any of the characters on any level. With Luiz Guzman. 91 min. (JR) (Music Box, 9:30)

Swing

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Music Box, 9:30)

Wednesday 9 October

Nights of Constantinople

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Landmark, 3:30)

Marooned in Iraq

I See listing under Tuesday, October 8. (Landmark, 4:00)

My Sister Maria

Viennese beauty Maria Schell enjoyed an international acting career in the 50s, working with such talents as Luchino Visconti (White Nights), Rene Clement (Gervaise), and Richard Brooks (The Brothers Karamazov). But her career never recovered from a five-year hiatus she took in the mid-60s, and this elegiac portrait by her younger and more successful brother, Maximilian Schell, finds the reclusive 76-year-old living in their family's old home in rural Austria--and in the past, courtesy of the videos she watches on one of her 11 television sets. Her profligate spending, aggravated by an increasingly tenuous grasp on reality, has recently forced her brother to liquidate part of his art collection to save her from ruin, and the film's rather stilted interviews and reenactments sometimes make it seem less a documentary than a valedictory performance. Maximilian stresses that Maria was an icon in postwar Germany, yet the saddest thing about her isolation and disappointment is that it's so common. In German, French, and Italian with subtitles. 94 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 6:00)

Bloody Sunday

I See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 6:15)

Seaside

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 6:45)

Exam

Despite a mainstream thrust that suggests Hollywood in its conventional blandness, this first feature by writer-director Nasser Refaie has a prototypical "Iranian art movie" orientation. It's a comedy about a crowd of young women waiting to take a university entrance exam that never strays outside its schoolyard location--a graceful tour de force that's limited by a reluctance to move beyond predictable character types. Unfolding over 80 minutes of real time, it evokes the modernist style of The White Balloon, and the focus on women determined to receive higher education is mildly feminist--though the propensity of recent Iranian features for staging all their action in exteriors is at least partially a consequence of censorship laws requiring women in film interiors to wear chadors, however implausible. The giggles and prankishness of many of the exam takers are refreshing, yet it's symptomatic of the overall mildness that the liveliest moments ensue when someone's pet monkey gets loose and climbs a tree. In Farsi with subtitles. 80 min. (JR) (Landmark, 7:00)

Springtime in a Small Town

Leading Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang is best known for his sublime historical epic Blue Kite (1993), whose depictions of the horrors of life under Mao got him banned from filmmaking for three years. His greatly anticipated return is a remake of the most revered Chinese film of all time: Fei Mu's 1948 Spring in a Small Town. Just after World War II a sickly landlord, Liyan, living in a half-ruined manor receives an unexpected visit from an old university friend, Zhiwen. Zhiwen was once the lover of Liyan's wife, Yuwen, and as passions rekindle, modern romance threatens to unravel traditional bonds of loyalty. The remake preserves the long, carefully designed takes, hauntingly dark atmosphere, and stealthily increasing tension of the original, but there are critical differences. Tian has abandoned the most innovative feature of Fei Mu's version--Yuwen's strikingly modernistic voice-over, a whispered stream of consciousness that complicates and poeticizes everything that happens--and replaced it with an almost classical film language, turning a radical commentary on China's breakdown into a nostalgic celebration of a lost perfect past. His goal is radical: to heal the rupture between China's traditional past and its postrevolutionary present. But the result, though splendidly graceful, is overly decorous and oddly lifeless. In Mandarin with subtitles. 112 min. (SK) (Music Box, 7:00)

A Little Monk

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Music Box, 7:15)

Dark City

Twelve narratives intertwine on the mean streets of Mexico City in this dramatic feature by Fernando Sariñana, based on Juan Madrid's short-story collection Chronicles of Dark Madrid. In Spanish with subtitles. 113 min. (Landmark, 8:30)

Madame Sata

I Thirty or forty years ago Brazilian films were as political as any in the world; today most carefully avoid social conflicts and contradictions. Of course there are exceptions, and Madame Sata is one. The story of an immensely strong drag queen in Rio in the 1930s--a legendary rebel, thief, and eventual murderer who was also generous and loyal to the limit--it describes more than an early South American Stonewall. Joao Francisco dos Santos, whose character is carefully built by director Karim Ainouz and wonderfully acted by Lazaro Ramos, is the incarnation of a certain ethic of resistance. Black, poor, and gay in a country that even today doesn't acknowledge that racism is a dominant force, Madame Sata fights back, becoming a role model rather than an object of pity. This is an important film. In Portuguese with subtitles. 103 min. (Q) (Landmark, 8:45)

Pleasant Days

We realize the title is ironic when in the opening scene a woman gives birth on a laundry floor, then sells her baby without batting an eyelash. Peter, who's just been released from prison, moves in with his sister, who owns the laundry and now the baby, then proceeds to get involved with the new mother and her shady married boyfriend--a triangle that's starkly devoid of love and soon spirals into hate. Kornel Mundruczo's heavily improvised, dangerously unromantic portrait of eastern European young adulthood puts these angry characters--who seem able to communicate only through sex or violence--in an environment drained of hope, and viewers are left feeling that they've been dragged through something sordid. With Tamas Polgar, Orsolya Toth, and Kata Weber. In Hungarian with subtitles. 100 min. (MP) (Landmark, 8:45)

All or Nothing

Mike Leigh's newest movie, a comic and moving examination of life in an impoverished South London housing complex, features marvelous performances, especially from Leigh stalwart Timothy Spall as a depressed London cabdriver, Lesley Manville as his equally depressed common-law wife, and the young actors playing their uncommunicative adolescent children. Leigh observes three quarrelsome families, all of whom start in relative misery (poor, alcoholic, abused) and suffer additional troubles (teen pregnancy, illnesses, more abuse). As things seem to be spiraling out of control, a domestic crisis provokes an anguished aria from Spall and an equally anguished, if muted, response from his wife. Unfortunately, after such daring and complex films as Naked, Secrets & Lies, and the unexpected Topsy-Turvy this feels like a step backward--a return to familiar, safe Leigh territory. 128 min. Also on the program: Last Rumba in Rochdale, a nine-minute UK short by John Chorlton. (MB) (Landmark, 9:00)

Lost in La Mancha

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Music Box, 9:30)

Shorts in Flux

The title of this shorts program might well refer to the quality of the work, which ranges from content in search of technique (Stanley Cho's awkward and cliched family drama Mallory) to technique in search of content (Eric Patrick's fast-motion epic Ablution). Three of the ten entries are worth seeing, though: In Reza Parsa's Meeting Evil (12 min.) a terrorist with a bomb strapped to his chest sits in the backseat of a car, taping a video letter to his daughter that he hopes will explain his motives and excuse his crime--and for the length of the video, anyway, it does. Brin Hill's sleek Morning Breath (17 min.), shot on location at Coney Island and a Brooklyn housing project, uses impressionistic imagery and a voice-over rap poem written by Sir Mums to tell the story of a street-level dealer who's trying to hang on to a woman of substance. And Dave Lieber's loopy clay animation Reaper, Sheeper, Treasure Seeker (15 min.) shuffles together blackouts about a sheep that devours everything in sight, a quartet of pirates who carpool every day while listening to talk radio, and the grim reaper, whose job is beginning to get to him. 119 min. (JJ) (Music Box, 9:45)

Thursday 10 October

Chihwaseon

See listing under Friday, October 4. (Landmark, 4:30)

Pleasant Days

See listing under Wednesday, October 9. (Landmark, 4:15)

Winter

Nina di Majo directed this drama about a gallery owner (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) whose troubled romantic relationship with a writer is adversely affected by their neighbors. With Valeria Golino. In Italian with subtitles. 97 min. (Landmark, 6:30)

Ikiru

I Akira Kurosawa's greatest film, from 1952, tells of a man (Takashi Shimura) who finds that he has terminal cancer and spends his remaining months building a playground in a poor section of the city. It avoids all the maudlin cliches and blind alleys of examining the "meaning of life," giving us instead a rare portrait of a man experiencing genuine insight into what his wasted years have been leading to. In Japanese with subtitles. 143 min. (DD) (Landmark, 6:30)

Minor Mishaps

Annette K. Olesen's amiable debut, in which a mother's unexpected death and her husband's ensuing illness expose tensions in an eccentric extended family, bears a similarity to Lone Scherfig's Italian for Beginners (2001), and it too won an award at the Berlin film festival. This family-relationships-in-crisis dramedy is, not surprisingly, even more reminiscent of Mike Leigh: Olesen and her crew created the film together during an extensive rehearsal. Ceding much of the creative responsibility to actors has its pluses, producing, for example, an abundance of humanity and strong performances. But it also generates glaring minuses, such as an excessive amount of dysfunction among the characters and a limited dramatic construction. Still, if you want life-affirming entertainment you could certainly do worse. In Danish with subtitles. 105 min. (MP) (Landmark, 6:45)

Roger Dodger

See listing under Tuesday, October 8. (Landmark, 7:00)

Marooned in Iraq

I See listing under Tuesday, October 8. (Music Box, 7:00)

Daughter from Yan'an

I During China's Cultural Revolution millions of urban teenagers were sent to the countryside to be reeducated as peasants. Many disobeyed an official ban and had illegitimate children, and this candid and touching documentary follows some former students as they arrange a meeting between two classmates and the daughter they abandoned. Perhaps ironically, director Kaoru Ikeya has chosen a young woman from Yan'an, a town in the parched highlands of central China that was the cradle of Chinese communism. She chafes at her harsh life and the feudal thinking of her foster parents and in-laws and longs to see her birth parents, who are now married to other people and living in Beijing. Ikeya, who's Japanese but has focused on China ever since Tiananmen, evenhandedly elicits frank comments and reactions from his subjects. The meeting between daughter and father is sad to watch, as is the reunion dinner of old classmates, who lament their lost youth and fear being forgotten by a new generation. It's an illuminating look at how China is confronting a painful past. In Mandarin with subtitles. 120 min. (TS) (Music Box, 7:00)

Nothing More

See listing under Tuesday, October 8. (Landmark, 9:00)

Women's Prison

See listing under Sunday, October 6. (Landmark, 9:15)

Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary

For years Traudl Junge--who was 22 in 1942, when she was picked out of a clerical pool to work as Hitler's private secretary--refused to talk publicly about her experience. Finally, at the age of 81, she decided to speak, sitting before the cameras nicely dressed, carefully coiffed, and seemingly self-possessed as she recites the sort of meaningless anecdotes--he doted on his dog, he was very polite, he was kind to children--Mel Brooks used to devastating affect in The Producers. The banality of evil indeed. The secretaries were in thrall to their powerful boss, who dined with one or two every day, preferring light badinage with them to talking shop with high-ranking Nazis. None of the communications they typed, she declares, had any tinge of the horrors being perpetrated somewhere far off in the name of the Reich. Viewers hoping for new revelations will have to be content with learning that Hitler suffered from severe stomach problems. Yet there's much more here than a trickle of unsatisfying tidbits. Traudl was later filmed watching and commenting on her earlier interviews. Here her insight and self-criticism are acute, as is her discussion of how she buried and eventually confronted her feelings of guilt and complicity. And when she recounts the final days in the bunker, we enter a mad, hypnotic fever dream. In German with subtitles. 95 min. (MB) (Landmark, 9:30)

All or Nothing

See listing under Wednesday, October 9. (Music Box, 9:30)

El bonaerense

I Pablo Trapero's first feature, Crane World (1999), marked a turning point in Argentinean cinema, proving that the new generation of filmmakers could dispense with a tradition of verbose dramas and cheap comedies and make something fresh and innovative. This film, Trapero's second, tells the story of a locksmith who leaves his small village to serve in the bonaerense, one of the most corrupt and dangerous police forces in the country (and the world). This is a tale of apprenticeship in which the protagonist plunges into a world of uniforms, routine, and barely disguised darkness, chaos, and madness. Trapero, who displays a great eye for authenticity and detail and a remarkable skill in treating the extraordinary in a realistic way, creates a powerful portrait of everyday life in Argentina in which the sense of anguish and despair is deep and sex provides the only relief. In Spanish with subtitles. 92 min. (Q) (Landmark, 9:45)

Nogo

See listing under Saturday, October 5. (Music Box, 9:45)

Next issue: Week Two

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